Rabbi Ross. As parents of 4 wonderful children Bli Ayin Hara, there are many challenges that we face. The most difficult of all for us is the bussing situation. My kids have been learning new things on the bus, and I’m not talking about Hebrew subjects. On the days that they don’t get an education, they come home taking about horrible arguments or fights. I’ve tried talking to the school, but either they aren’t taking me seriously or they can’t do anything about it. We’re at the point that we are thinking of just driving the kids every day. Why can’t they just hire someone to be a bus monitor like they have in camps? Please share any advice you think may help. Thank you. D&L – Cedarhurst
I don’t think that anyone enjoys sending their children on the bus. There are actually two parts to the bus ride. The morning ride, and the afternoon ride. In my experience, the bus in the morning is a lot more easy-going. Most of the kids are still sleepy and therefore just sit quietly in their respective seats, waiting for the bus to arrive at school.
The problem many parents have with the morning bus is more of a timing issue. On those mornings that you’re behind schedule by one minute, the bus comes exactly on time. When you are on schedule, the bus seems to come late. Timing notwithstanding, there aren’t a lot of issues with the morning bus. Occasionally the drivers will say that some of the boys were acting up, but it’s nothing crazy.
The afternoon ride is, unfortunately, a different story. The kids are extremely hyper after sitting through a day of classes, and they are not being supervised in most cases. You asked about a bus counselor, but I’m not sure who would pay for that. In camps, the counselors will frequently monitor the younger kids, so they can get extra tips. During the school year, who is going to spend two hours a day sitting on a bus with the kids? You would need an older person, and I can’t envision the district or the bus company agreeing to pay for it.
I am aware that some buses have video cameras set up now. That’s somewhat helpful in figuring out what happened after an incident, but it’s not that helpful as a preventative measure. The bus drivers themselves are ill equipped to deal with most situations. Driving a bus isn’t as simple as one would think, and they need to follow certain protocols while the bus is in motion. They are unable, and probably not even allowed, to really intervene when there is a problem. Basically, it seems that your child is on his own on the bus.
Let’s switch gears for a second (pun certainly intended) and discuss what is happening on the busses. A few years back, one of my children came off a bus and told my wife that a boy kept saying the “S” word on the bus. Naturally my wife and I were quite upset and called the appropriate administration members immediately. We were also debating calling this boy’s parents. When I sat my son down to get the exact details, it came to light that the “S” word he was talking about was “Stupid.”
Whereas that sounds cute, it highlights the worst part of the bus ride. The education that the kids get. No matter the age, children learn new things on the bus. It could be something as innocent as the latest game that’s being downloaded. It could also be somewhat worse. Before you start blaming other families for not raising their children properly, remember that their children probably learned things on the bus or from older siblings (who may have learned it on the bus.) In other words, it’s not time to play the blame game.
Below are some ideas I can share regarding this issue. As always, some of these might work better than others. Feel free to share additional ideas in the comment section.
Rabbi Ross. Along with all your many readers, I want to thank you for you Avodas Hakodesh. Your advice is inspiring, and although there are some articles which I don’t agree with, by and large my wife and I have gained tremendously for your hard work. You wrote a long time ago that siblings fight. We’re ok with the kids fighting once in a while. What bothers us, is when they talk to each other. They say these horrible insults, comments which I’m too embarrassed to even put on paper. I would prefer they fought physically and get over it. These stinging insults are just so mean and we’re both really frustrated. Any advice would be much appreciated. Dovid - Flatbush
Firstly, thank you for your kind words. And I’d be concerned with anybody who agreed 100% with what I say. I like to categorize sibling rivalry into three types. The first is childish banter. “I’m way better at baseball than you are.” The second is physical fighting. The third, is the malicious comments that you’re talking about. Many parents have told me that these harsh comments usually begin once they enter their teenage years.
For those of you that aren’t aware of what comments we’re talking about, I’ll list a few that have been sent to me. “I wish you were never born.” “I truly hate having you as a brother” “You are the dumbest person I have ever met”. And these are the “nicer” ones. As parents, it’s so hurtful, not just because of what’s being said, but even more so, the malicious tone being used. One mother described it as hatred oozing from her child’s soul.
It’s not. It feels like your children have this deep-rooted hatred of one another, but they really don’t. It’s usually frustration about other things, and siblings are just an easy target. I haven’t ever done a formal study, but most siblings that don’t get along as kids seem to be fine later in life. Some siblings joke about their younger days, others pretend it never happened.
I’m not saying that you should ignore this behavior. On the contrary, this needs to be dealt with. However, it’s important to understand what the issue really is. The fact that he’s venting by saying mean things to his siblings, tells us that he needs a better outlet for his frustration. He’s obviously angry or frustrated and is saying harmful things. The goal here should be:
I’ve been reading your e-mails for quite some time now. I’ve noticed that most questions are regarding younger children. Although I have a few younger ones, my question is concerning my 11th grader. He goes to Yeshiva very early in the AM and comes back late at night. When he arrives home, he immerses himself in his phone and the computer. It’s all filtered, but all he does is play fantasy ball (still don’t know that that means). I know he needs down time, but I want him to be a real person and not live in fantasy land. My husband is a Rav, and he feels my son should be spending more time learning at home. We were wondering if you would answer a question about teenagers, and if so what your thoughts are. Please keep my name and location private. Private – No Location
First of all, thanks for reading. I have answered questions about older kids, but I try to focus on questions that seem to have a common denominator. This is why most of the questions I reply to are somewhat short (yours is the longest I’ve ever answered). Anything that’s too specific is usually not generalized enough to respond to in a public forum.
Many of my articles tend to deal with questions and responses that can help a wider spectrum of parental concerns, rather than being too specific. A majority of the emails I receive concern younger children. Your question, however, is certainly an issue which we encounter in many families, across many communities.
First and foremost, you are not alone. I recently spoke to a Chassidishe father who lives in Williamsburg, and he has the same problem. He told me that he would never admit it publicly, since his kids are not supposed to have smart phones or internet access. However, in his own words, “I fear that my teenagers are relying on electronic devices for companionship.”
Let’s start off by empathizing with your son. He spends over twelve hours in Yeshiva and he needs some downtime. These days, children associate electronics with relaxation, and it makes sense. Many adults “Chill out” by watching a video, playing a word game or even reading an ebook. It’s only natural that children feel the same way. There’s no denying that he needs some time to relax, and this will help him unwind.
This leaves us with two important questions.
Regarding what your husband wants, I don’t think that’s something that’s even worth discussing, since there are so many variables involved. (What’s your son’s relationship with his father? Does he want to learn extra? Does your husband put too much pressure on him?) Let’s skip this part of the equation and focus on what your expectations are. You aren’t happy with what he’s doing, but do you have any other suggestions?
Which brings us to the second question. What can you do about it? Here are my thoughts. As I’ve written many times, many of these will not work. You need to know what’s appropriate for your situation and your child.
Have a wonderful Shabbos.
Rabbi Ross. My 9-year-old son is very unique – he hates sports. He is content playing with Legos all day and refuses to go outside and play with his friends. I‘m worried about this for two reasons. First of all, I think it’s detrimental socially. Also, it’s unhealthy for him to spend every waking moment inside the house. What can we do to get him outside? Private – Woodmere
I hate to break this to you, but he is not unique. There are many children that are like this and it’s quite common. You do have to differentiate between him disliking sports and exercise. Many children hate the competitive part of sports, either because they don’t like the intensity, or they aren’t good at it. However, not being willing to exercise or play outside at all is a totally separate issue.
You didn’t mention electronics, which is a completely different ballgame (pun definitely intended). Therefore, we’re going to assume that your son is not spending large amounts of time playing electronic devices, rather he’s just very involved with puzzles, Legos and similar activities.
Let’s first assume that your son doesn’t like sports. There is nothing wrong with that. You have many options available, and I’ll list a few of them.
Have a good Shabbos
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.